DIY Plumbing Tips And Tricks

Declining Water Heater? Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know!

Big B's Plumbing - Your Plumber for Life!

Your water heater is a vital appliance in your home, ensuring you have a steady supply of hot water. Your heater supplies hot water for daily tasks, from showers to dishwashing. However, even the most reliable water heaters can show signs of wear and tear over time. Understanding the signs of a declining water heater and knowing how to address them is essential for preventing unexpected breakdowns.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of your aging or malfunctioning water heater. We’ll cover everything from common warning signs to maintenance tips and replacement considerations. By the end of this guide, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your heater’s health. Additionally, you’ll be given the steps to ensure you have a reliable source of hot water in your home.

Replace Your Water Heater

5 Minor Hot Water Heater Issues

If you’re experiencing a noticeable decrease in your hot water supply, addressing this issue promptly is crucial. Running out of hot water sooner than expected or not having any hot water at all can disrupt your daily routines and comfort. Several potential culprits may be causing this problem; look below at seven minor water heater issues:

#1 Faulty Heating Element: 

Inside an electric water heater are one or two heating elements responsible for warming the water. Over time, these heating elements can degrade or burn out, reducing the unit’s ability to heat water effectively. A malfunctioning heating element can result in insufficient hot water production or no hot water at all.

#2 Broken Thermostat: 

The thermostat on your water heater controls the water temperature inside the tank. If it’s not functioning correctly, it can cause the water to be either too hot or not hot enough. This inconsistency in temperature can make it challenging to maintain a steady hot water supply.

#3 Sediment Buildup: 

Sediment naturally accumulates at the bottom of the water heater tank over time. This sediment consists of minerals and debris from the water supply. When the sediment layer becomes too thick, it can insulate the heating element from the water, reducing its efficiency. This buildup can also create a popping or crackling sound when the heater is running, leading to a reduced hot water supply.

#4 Tank Size: 

It’s worth considering whether your water heater’s tank size suits your household’s hot water demands. If your family has grown or your hot water usage has increased significantly, a larger heater may be necessary to meet your needs.

#5 Insulation or Water Leakage: 

In some cases, poor insulation or a water leak in the pipes connected to your water heater can contribute to heat loss, making it seem like you’re running out of hot water faster. Inspect the area around your heater for any signs of moisture or leaks.

Consult your professional technician from BIG B’s to diagnose and address these issues. They can thoroughly inspect your water heater, identify the specific problem, and recommend the appropriate repairs or replacements. Regular maintenance and flushing of your heater can also help prevent sediment buildup and extend the unit’s lifespan, ensuring a consistent and reliable hot water supply.

9 Major Water Heater Issues that May Mean Your Water Heater Needs Replacing

Strange Noises: 

Strange noises emanating from your water heater can be unsettling, but they often convey valuable information about the condition of your unit. When you hear popping, banging, or rumbling sounds, it’s typically a sign that something is amiss inside the tank. One common cause is sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. As the heating element heats the water, it can cause the accumulated sediment to expand and create popping or cracking noises. These sounds indicate reduced efficiency and can lead to overheating as the sediment insulates the heating element from the water. 

Overheating, in turn, can accelerate wear and tear on your heater, potentially leading to more serious issues. To prevent further damage and restore your water heater’s performance, it’s advisable to have it professionally inspected, flushed, and maintained. Regular maintenance can help eliminate sediment buildup, prolong the life of your water heater, and ensure it operates quietly and efficiently.

Water Heater Leaks:

Detecting water pooling around your water heater or spotting visible leaks from the tank is a cause for immediate concern. These signs signify potentially severe issues that demand swift action. Leaks can inflict significant damage to your home, including structural damage, water damage to surrounding walls, flooring, and mold growth. One of the common reasons for leaks is tank corrosion, which can result from constant exposure to water and minerals. This corrosion can weaken the tank walls, leading to cracks or holes through which water escapes.

Additionally, pressure and temperature fluctuations can exacerbate existing weaknesses in the tank, making leaks more likely. If you notice any signs of leakage, it’s essential to turn off the power or gas supply to the water heater and shut off the water supply to prevent further damage. Then, promptly contact a professional plumber to assess the extent of the damage, repair the issue, or recommend a replacement if necessary. Addressing leaks swiftly can help you avoid costly repairs and minimize the risk of extensive property damage.

Rusty Water:

The sight of rust-colored water flowing from your faucets can cause concern and should not be ignored. This discoloration often suggests that corrosion is occurring inside your water heater. Over time, exposure to water and its minerals can cause the tank’s metal components to corrode. This corrosion weakens the tank’s structural integrity and can eventually result in leaks. When rust forms on the interior of the tank, it can create small openings or cracks through which water can escape. 

If left untreated, these leaks will likely worsen over time, potentially causing significant damage to your heater and your home. When you detect rust-colored water, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly by consulting a professional plumber to assess the condition of your water heater and recommend the necessary repairs or a replacement to prevent further deterioration.

Fluctuating Water Temperatures:

Experiencing fluctuating water temperatures from your heater can be inconvenient and frustrating. These unpredictable temperature changes can disrupt your daily activities, such as showering, dishwashing, or laundry. When the water temperature varies widely, it’s often a sign that the thermostat or heating element within the water heater is malfunctioning. The thermostat regulates the water temperature, while the heating element heats the water. If either of these components fails, it can lead to inconsistent hot water production. 

A malfunctioning thermostat may inaccurately read the water temperature, causing it to cycle intermittently. On the other hand, a faulty heating element may not be heating the water evenly or consistently. In both cases, the result is an unreliable hot water supply, making it challenging to use hot water effectively. To resolve this issue, it’s advisable to have a professional technician inspect and repair or replace the faulty components. It will ensure your heater operates efficiently and consistently.

Your water heater is part of plumbing maintenance

Water Heater Age:

Water heater age is critical in determining when to consider a replacement, even if your unit seems to be functioning adequately. Most conventional tank-style heaters are designed to last between 10 to 15 years. As they age, the likelihood of experiencing problems and inefficiencies increases. Older heaters tend to accumulate sediment and mineral deposits more quickly, reducing their efficiency and capacity to deliver hot water consistently. Moreover, the risk of corrosion also grows with time, making leaks and structural issues more probable. 

Replacing an older water heater can save you from the inconvenience of sudden breakdowns, costly emergency repairs, and potential water damage to your home. Furthermore, newer heater models are often more energy-efficient, which can lead to long-term savings on your utility bills. Therefore, if your water heater is nearing or exceeding its expected lifespan, it’s prudent to consider replacing it as a preventative measure to ensure reliable hot water and avoid unexpected disruptions.

Decreased Water Pressure:

Experiencing a noticeable decrease in water pressure throughout your home can be frustrating, often indicating an underlying problem with your water heater. Sediment buildup is a common culprit in cases of reduced water pressure. Over time, minerals and debris in your water supply settle at the bottom of the tank, forming sediment. This sediment can accumulate to the point where it obstructs water flow through the plumbing connections, leading to reduced pressure. 

Blockages or scale buildup in the pipes connected to the water heater can also contribute to decreased water pressure. To address these lime scale issues, it’s essential to have your heater professionally inspected and maintained. Flushing the tank to remove sediment and addressing any plumbing obstructions will restore water pressure and improve the overall efficiency of your heater, ensuring a steady supply of hot water throughout your home.

Pilot Light Problems:

Pilot light problems in a gas water heater can be frustrating, disrupting the heating process, leaving you without hot water. When the pilot light consistently goes out or fails to stay lit, it often indicates a malfunctioning component. One common culprit is the thermocouple, a safety device that senses the presence of a pilot flame and controls the gas flow to the burner. If the thermocouple is faulty or coated with soot or residue, it may not generate enough electrical voltage to keep the gas valve open, leading to pilot light extinguishment. 

Alternatively, a malfunctioning gas valve can prevent the pilot light from staying lit. In either case, it’s crucial to have a qualified technician inspect and repair the gas water heater to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the pilot light, preventing potential gas leaks and restoring your hot water supply.

Higher Energy Bills:

Higher energy bills can significantly indicate water heater issues that often go unnoticed. If you’ve noticed a gradual and unexplained rise in your monthly energy expenses, your heater could be a contributing factor. Over time, water heaters can lose their efficiency due to factors like aging or damage. An inefficient water heater consumes more energy to heat the same amount of water, leading to higher energy bills. 

Common causes of inefficiency include sediment buildup, corrosion, damaged heating elements, and poorly insulated tanks. To address this problem and lower your energy bills, consider having your heater inspected by a professional technician. They can identify and resolve the root cause of the inefficiency, whether by cleaning the tank, replacing faulty components, or recommending an energy-efficient upgrade to ensure you’re getting the most out of your water heater while reducing your utility costs.

Visible Corrosion:

The presence of rust or corrosion on the exterior of your water heater tank is a visible and concerning sign. It suggests that the protective coating on the tank’s exterior has been compromised, which can lead to more severe issues. This external corrosion often occurs when the tank is exposed to moisture or when there’s a minor leak, allowing water to come into contact with the metal surface. If left unaddressed, it can weaken the tank over time, leading to cracks that may result in water leakage. 

External corrosion may also indicate that the anode rod—a sacrificial component designed to protect the tank from internal corrosion. The rod may have been depleted or is no longer functioning effectively. In such cases, having your water heater inspected by a qualified plumber or HVAC technician is crucial. They can assess the extent of the damage and repair or replace the affected components. This will also ensure that your heater operates safely and efficiently. Regular maintenance, which includes inspecting the anode rod and addressing any signs of corrosion, is essential to extend the lifespan of your water heater and prevent unexpected issues.

Armed with this Knowledge of a Declining Water Heater, You Have the Power to Proactively Address the Issues

In the journey through this guide, we’ve explored the various aspects of your water heater’s health, from recognizing warning signs. We suggest implementing maintenance strategies and even considering replacements when necessary. Armed with this knowledge, you have the power to proactively address issues and extend the lifespan of your heater.

Remember that regular maintenance, timely repairs, and professional assessments can go a long way in preserving your water heater’s functionality. With the information and insights gained here, you’re well-prepared to take charge of your declining water heater’s well-being and maintain comfort. BIG B’s for all your plumbing needs license #986152

Brandon and Family, Licensed plumbing contractor

Family Owned & Operated

My name is Brandon Mageno. I'm the founder, President, and CEO of Big B's Plumbing Company. As the founder, I never thought about being average or good. My passion for being the best plumbing company in Southern California has always been the same. Providing plumbing services to this great county is simply in my DNA. Nothing makes me happier than to see a satisfied customer. Learn More About Us

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